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Out like Flynn

As much as Donald Trump might want to put the dysfunction in his national security team behind him, Monday's resignation of top adviser Mike Flynn — at the behest of the president, spokesman Sean Spicer revealed Tuesday — only adds to the questions surrounding how the administration deals with foreign threats from Russia to North Korea. In his resignation letter, Mr. Flynn indicated that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak "inadvertently," but it remains unclear whether the two discussed the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama.

Did he or didn't he? Surely, there's no other action that would have brought about the national security adviser's abrupt departure after just 25 days on a job, particularly given the warning from the Justice Department — issued last month but revealed Monday — that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. And it comes on the heels of another embarrassing episode — the impromptu Mar-a-Lago situation room conducted for a gaggle of wealthy Palm Beach diners who had a front row seat when President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were notified that North Korea had conducted an intermediate-range ballistic missile test over the weekend. The administration insists that no top secret matters were discussed, only the parameters for a subsequent press conference, but anyone who believes that might still believe, as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway announced hours before Mr. Flynn's resignation, that the president had "full confidence" in the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general.

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Add this to the National Security Council shakeup that earlier landed Mr. Trump's chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, on the team advising the president on defense and intelligence issues as well as his dust-up with the intelligence community and the manner in which his campaign benefited from Russian hacking, and Mr. Trump's first three weeks in the White House have been nothing short of a national security nightmare. The situation would be laughable if it were not so serious. Crises have a way of finding the incapable, with the latest being reports of Russia's provocative (and illegal) new deployment of cruise missiles.

Mr. Flynn was among those leading the infamous "Lock her up" chant at the Republican National Convention aimed at Hillary Clinton. Her use of a private server now seems like exceedingly small potatoes (if it didn't already to a majority of Americans) compared to calling up a high-ranking Russian official to negotiate foreign policy before your boss takes office (a violation of the centuries-old Logan Act, incidentally) and then lying about it to the vice president and the public.

The question now is what did the rest of Mr. Trump's security team know and when did they know it? Once again, the Trump administration's credibility is in question, particularly regarding Russia, with Mr. Spicer reiterating that Mr. Flynn did nothing illegal. At minimum, what's needed now is some kind of broad investigation by Congress —the kind House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz was only too happy to provide when Ms. Clinton had a connection to the subject. Sadly (but not surprisingly), Mr. Chaffetz has already indicated the controversy involving Mr. Flynn "is taking care of itself" and won't be investigated, while House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has pledged to look into how Mr. Flynn's call was leaked to the press but not his interactions with President Trump.

But speaking of leaks — a subject raised even by Mr. Trump via a Valentine's Day tweet ("The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?") — such surreptitious behavior would seem wholly unnecessary if a president is going to be briefed in a clubhouse dining room. That's probably why Mar-a-Lago recently doubled its fee for new members to $200,000 — dining at the Palm Beach resort may now include a live show. Still, the fee is a relatively small price to pay for foreign governments who might want to get a bead on, for example, an unsecured presidential cell phone used as a flashlight to read documents in addition to launching late-night tweets. Or perhaps foreign agents would simply be happy to identify which member of the White House staff carries around the "football," the briefcase used to connect the president to the nation's strategic defense system and potentially launch a nuclear missile.

If there's a consistent pattern in the Trump White House's first month, it's constant upheaval and pandemonium. The president's supporters like to blame the press for fostering an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty across the country, but, if anything, the Flynn departure is an example that a free and independent press (and holding Mr. Trump and his advisers accountable) is still the best defense against gross incompetence and malfeasance — and that no one is immune to the consequences of getting caught in a lie, not even a billionaire businessman with a fondness for prevarication.

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